INSIDE: Whether in the heat of summer or the cold of winter, there's something awesome about exploring nature and our place in it. Creating space outside through a Feng Shui garden design invites energy flow and harmony into our relationship with the natural environment.
In the field of landscaping and landscape architecture, balance is a key element to create a thriving aesthetic in an outdoor space.
That means weighing what is known as the hardscape and softscape together. The hardscape refers to the manmade elements of design – buildings, pavers, furniture, etc. Plants and other natural features like streams and forests make up the softscape.
In the ever-changing world over the past year, we’ve found new connections, purposes, and reliance on outdoor spaces. Garden designers have even found innovative ways to cue health mandates around social distancing into landscaped areas that bring subtle indicators through hard and softscape features.
It should come as no surprise that we value balance in our relationship to nature. It also seems logical that we would look to the outdoors for protection and guidance during uncertain times.
For thousands of years, the harmony of human life with nature has been the underlying tenet of the Chinese Taoist tradition of Feng shui.
Feng shui, which roughly translates to “wind water,” does not fit a single category of thought – it rests in philosophy, art, and science.
While not all landscape design uses the principles of a Feng shui garden, when we apply Feng shui to guide the creation of our outdoor spaces, we invite peace, prosperity, and balance to flow from the earth into our lives.
That is the most basic idea of Feng Shui, an “unencumbered flow of energy”. By creating a stable space that combines flow, grounding, and positive energy, you'll produce an outdoor sanctuary to enter everyday and every season for inspiration and calm.
What is a Feng Shui Garden & Why Should I Create One?
We’ll start with a quick overview of a few concepts that are foundational to Feng Shui:
- The duality of yin and yang
- The 5 key elements
- The 9 energy zones
When you begin to see the patterns and balance in these concepts, it turns into a masterful guide for designing your garden.
Yin and Yang in the Garden
Many people have heard of Yin and Yang in relationship to the spiritual symbol. This duality represents a balance of energy and can help guide how we choose our feng shui garden colors.
Yin refers to a passive, feminine energy. In a Yin space, you can seek calm and stillness to reflect and tune into your intuition. To apply Yin energy in your garden, use cool colors placed in alcoves and create spaces for privacy.
Yang then corresponds to active, masculine energy. Yang brings motivation and inspired energy into a garden. Incorporate warm colors in visible, forward-facing spaces with a more public eye. This demonstrates and radiates the life force beaming from your home.
The 5 Elements of Feng Shui
Feng shui rests on the human relationship to nature. When implementing this philosophy in your outdoor space, it’s important to include plants, colors, and materials that symbolize the 5 natural elements.
These elements are Fire, Water, Metal, Earth and Wood. Each of them contributes to the delicate balance between grounding and passion to maintain the flow of energy throughout a garden.
You'll notice how these 5 elements emerge as you plan the layout and placement of your Feng Shui garden décor.
Energy Zones & the Bagua Map
Now we shift to look at a more complex component of feng shui. It can feel overwhelming at first, but keep in mind that feng shui actually seeks simplicity and harmony in all aspects of life.
A critical tool to feng shui is the Bagua map, a grid-like layout that depicts 8 realms of life, plus one center zone of Tai Chi, the source of life. The Bagua map helps you to train your focus and intention in areas of your life that you feel need balance or attention.
When you find balance in all 9 areas, you'll enable the flow of abundance and satisfaction in all aspects of life.
Each area has a corresponding element and relates to a specific season. This helps define particular features, like colors and textures, to place in the zone.
Let’s take a look at the 9 energy zones of feng shui, which reside in particular directions on the map:
- North – Career and Life Journey – Water and Winter
- Northeast – Wisdom and Knowledge – Earth and Seasonal Transition
- Northwest – Helpful People and Travel – Metal and Autumn
- Center – Tai Chi – Earth and Seasonal Transition
- East – Health and Family – Wood and Spring
- West – Creativity and Children – Metal and Autumn
- South – Fame and Reputation – Fire and Summer
- Southeast – Wealth and Prosperity – Wood and Spring
- Southwest – Love and Marriage – Earth and Seasonal Transition
You might notice that each element connects to a particular season or transition. This can be helpful in understanding which areas of your garden will need attention at different times.
The map does not have to correspond to the earth’s actual geographic direction points. Rather, you align the Bagua map from the entrance to your space – the gate, archway, or opening that leads into your garden.
The entrance should land in the North energy zone, or at least in one of the three northern areas. From there, you can plan out equal spaces for each life realm.
Best Feng Shui Garden Plants
Feng shui garden plants attract and harness the energy from the 5 elements. Flowers represent the blossoming of good luck in your life, while fruits help foster fertility and prosperity in your relationships, career, and health.
We’ve mentioned some of our favorites, but there are many more. Just consider the particular features of a plant as you decide where to place them in your garden.
Plants that bring in the energy of fire usually grow fruit or leaves in warm, reddish colors and are triangular or conical shapes.
Geraniums and holly bushes are wonderful fire plants. Trees with red bark also attract fire energy, like the Japanese Maple tree.
Water plants tend to emit darker blue or purple colors, or they are plants that thrive in water, like the Lotus. Other plants that evoke water are lilies and the sweet potato vine.
The element of metal comes through plants with white flowers and rounder leaves, such as a dogwood tree or jasmine. These plants might also show some light brown colors, like the hints of tan lines on hosta leaves.
Plants like the gingko biloba tree signal the earth element. With earthy tones closer to yellow, these plants often have more square-shaped foliage. Different species of grasses offer great connection to the element of earth.
While wood seems like the most obvious element for a feng shui garden, it's worth exploring because of the specific energy zones with which it corresponds. The wood element comes through plants with long stems that can create lush spaces.
Trees, like palms and pine, connect with wood, and bamboo is perhaps one of the strongest carriers of wood energy. Herbs like rosemary, thyme, and basil should be planted in zones of the wood element.
10 Feng Shui Garden Décor Ideas & Tips
With this wealth of information, it’s time to focus on different ideas for Feng Shui garden décor.
Remember that Feng Shui calls for simplicity, so don’t overload and clutter your garden. Choose items and materials that you intuitively connect with and that contribute to the balance of your energy zones.
Here are some of our favorite tips to get you started...
Beautiful fixtures in any garden, crystals maintain deep earth connections and symbolize the strength of mountains.
Crystals emanate different frequencies, some with more calming vibrations and others with high energetic waves. Depending on the aura of the energy zone, you can place crystals like Clear Quartz as natural garden sculptures or incorporate tumbled Hematite or Black Tourmaline stones into other architectural features.
You need to keep in mind the durability of the crystals you plan to keep outside and exposed to weather conditions. Not all crystals are suitable in water and rain, while others may be sensitive to light and sun that can distort their colors. Check our Crystal Care Guide for more info.
Add a Feng Shui Outdoor Water Fountain
Because flow is so central to this philosophy, a feng shui outdoor water fountain provides cleansing vibrations to make room for growth and prosperity. Fountains should always flow freely, and if you notice stagnation, leakage, or blockage from the water source, you need to pay attention to that area of your life.
You want to make sure that you install a water feature in the correct energy zone of the Bagua map (those with the water element), otherwise it might transport needed energy out of an important life realm.
Bring in Sound With Wind Chimes
As in the meaning of feng shui, “wind water,” wind chimes can balance the energy of a water feature. The delicate sound vibrations that come from wind chimes permeate the garden air with energetic frequencies to contribute to etheric harmony.
You can hang wind chimes near a fountain when they are light and delicate so that they don't overpower water’s flow and energy. Larger metallic chimes can also have a place in your garden in other Bagua map regions.
Add Statues for Their Symbolism
Statues in your garden can serve as important reminders of the protection and luck of nature. Sculptures that connect to spiritual symbols, in particular, draw positive energy to the garden.
You want the statues to be proportional to the size of your garden space, otherwise a statue can absorb the energy away from you rather than helping you find balance.
Include a Bird Bath to Combine Heaven & Earth
Another type of Feng Shui outdoor water fountain for your garden is a bird bath. Although these dishes and pillars usually hold still water, the activity and movement of the birds that come to find nourishment keep the water moving and flowing.
Birds symbolize a divine connection with the spirit world in their ability to freely fly between the earth and sky. They inspire peace and harmony and carry spiritual messages. By fostering a space for birds to take refuge in your garden, you create a deep connection of heaven and earth.
Add Stepping-Stones for Energy Flow
Alongside water fountains, stepping-stone pathways provide a critical avenue for energy flow. By providing a path in your feng shui garden, you highlight the flow of energy, allowing it to circulate throughout the life realms.
It’s especially important that the stepping-stones follow a curved path rather than sharp turns and edges. The sinuous nature of the paths exemplifies life’s wandering journey rather than a direct, easy route to a destination.
As with the flow of water, paths through the garden should remain unblocked and open.
Include a Place for Rest & Reflection
Along with the sounds of nature, your outdoor space should invite in silence and reflection. Designating a comfortable area to sit and rest allows you to come to your garden for restorative connection with nature and others.
When you choose seating in your garden, you should aim to pick furniture in pairs or that can seat at least two people for the Love & Marriage zone. This increases the intention to grow healthy relationships.
You can also incorporate feng shui garden plants in these areas to bring healing energy that you get from breathing freshly produced oxygen.
Bring in the Fire Element With a Fire Pit
Bright orange and red plants help generate fire energy, but a fire pit that lets you bring true fire into your garden can be an awesome feature.
Fire helps to clarify and purify the space. It’’s raging energy also empowers you on your path and illuminates the way even in the dark.
Add a Gazing Ball for Protection
A gazing ball is a large orb that can bounce prismatic, kaleidoscopic feng shui garden colors throughout your space.
These round spheres work to protect your garden sanctuary by creating a radiant shield of light and deflecting negative energy patterns back to their source so they can’t penetrate your space.
Light it Up at Night
Installing environmentally-friendly solar lights in the South zone of Fame & Reputation brings more fire energy into a garden.
You can find outdoor lamps and lanterns in shapes and sizes that project light in different strengths. These can be great for lighting up the pathways of your garden at night so that energy can flow at all hours.
Whether you have acres of land or a tiny apartment balcony, you can build a feng shui garden that provides stabilizing energy. Having your own personal outdoor space of tranquility and balance will boost your mood and motivation and remind you of the gifts of nature in our lives.
* Crystals and stones should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please read our full disclosure notice here.